Posted by Dr. Julie Boudreault On 22-12-2022
Gum disease is a severe condition that can cause tooth loss in adults. The slow process of gum, tooth, and bone deterioration is mostly painless, making it hard to detect. It begins as a mild infection of the gums, and can be treated successfully with enough warning.
Educating yourself on the signs of gum disease enables you (and your dentist) to diagnose it early. If you notice any of the symptoms listed in this article, contact your dentist. Consistent check-ups will help keep your mouth healthy and prevent the serious consequences of gum disease.
What is gum disease?
Gum disease (periodontal disease) is an infection located in the gums of your teeth. It begins with inflammation in the gum tissue that’s brought on by poor dental hygiene. At this stage, it’s referred to as gingivitis. Your gums appear red and swollen and are sensitive to the touch.
As the infection progresses, the very tissues that hold your teeth in place begin to deteriorate. Periodontitis is when the bones and fibres supporting the teeth are irreversibly damaged. The gum line begins to recede, thus creating a gap between your teeth and your gums where bacteria and bits of food can settle. This leads to further degradation of the bone itself.
Finally, gum disease reaches its final stage: advanced periodontitis. Because the tissue and bones surrounding your teeth are now destroyed, the teeth become loose. Ultimately, this results in tooth loss. Periodontal disease is the number one reason why adults lose their teeth.
Causes of Gum Disease
Although the consequences of gum disease are severe, it has humble beginnings. Improper brushing and flossing can lead to a build-up of plaque in the mouth. Regular professional cleanings from your dentist help curb this accumulation of plaque.
However, what exactly is plaque? It’s a colourless, sticky layer of bacteria that builds up on your teeth. The mouth is naturally full of bacteria, which means we have to be proactive and diligent with our brushing and flossing habits. Consistent brushing and flossing can prevent plaque from building up, and remove it once it does.
If the plaque is not removed, though, it hardens and becomes tartar. Tartar cannot be combated with simply brushing and flossing. Only your dentist has the right tools and techniques to remove it.
There are other causes besides poor oral hygiene. Diabetes, AIDS, certain medications, and genetics all have the potential to produce gum disease. That being said, smoking is the most significant factor in whether a person will develop gum disease, and also lessens the likelihood of successful treatment.
Signs of Gum Disease
Much of the process of gum degradation is painless. Familiarise yourself with the symptoms of gum disease so you can recognise the signs, which include the following:
- Your gums appear red and swollen.
- Your gums hurt and bleed easily, especially when you brush, floss, eat, or drink.
- It hurts to chew.
- You always have bad breath that won’t go away.
- Your gums are receding, causing your teeth to appear longer and feel more sensitive.
- Your teeth are loose.
- There is pus in between your teeth or other signs of infection.
Treating Gum Disease
Your dentist or dental hygienist will be able to diagnose your gum disease. This is done by assessing the symptoms and measuring the depth of the pockets around your teeth. Since gum disease causes your gums to pull away from the teeth, this gap grows. If your mouth is healthy, this pocket will only be 1 to 3 millimetres deep. Some dentists may take an x-ray to see if you are suffering from any bone loss.
Regular dental check-ups are incredibly important for early detection of gum disease. If caught early, the infection can be reversed! Gingivitis can be treated with a thorough, professional cleaning followed by regular brushing and flossing.
Once the disease has progressed to periodontitis, treating it becomes harder. More severe and invasive methods are then needed to eliminate germs and bacteria from your mouth. Your dentist will have to go beneath the gum line to clean the roots of your teeth. If you have already suffered tissue and bone loss, then you will likely be recommended to a specialist (called a periodontist) for more advanced treatment.
Good brushing and flossing habits combat the build-up of plaque and reduce your risk of gum disease. You should be brushing twice a day with fluoride-based toothpaste, and flossing daily to reach the plaque growing in between your teeth. Mouthwash is also a great addition to your dental hygiene regime, as it cleans away any remaining food particles and helps to break down plaque.
Quitting smoking is crucial for your overall health, especially for the health of your mouth. Avoid all forms of tobacco from cigarettes to vapes. Another lifestyle change that can benefit your oral health is reducing your intake of foods that are high in sugar.
Preventing Disease With Dental Check-Ups
Maintaining a meticulous oral hygiene regime at home is important for your health, as is keeping regular appointments with your dentist or dental hygienist. A professional will be able to identify gum disease early on, and you can begin treating the condition before it progresses. Gingivitis is irreversible; advanced periodontitis is not.
At home, monitor the condition of your gums to see if gum disease may be developing. Watch out for red, swollen, or sensitive gums that are receding from your teeth. Report any abnormalities to your dentist.
If you keep a strong brushing and flossing habit, avoid all tobacco products, and see your dentist on a consistent basis, then you significantly reduce the likelihood of developing gum disease.